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What’s Next For Convention Center Design?

  • Facility Manager Magazine - April/May 2013
  • June 04, 2013
From the architect’s viewpoint, convention center design is evolving at a rapid pace, impacted by the economic conditions and changing expectations of meeting planners, building operators and convention attendees. Over the last 40 years, customer needs have evolved tremendously, and for the most part meeting spaces have remained the same, making convention center meeting rooms in North America predictable and almost indistinguishable. Each year, we at Populous host a workshop called “Imagine That” for select industry professionals in an effort to re-imagine convention center design and pave the way for innovative solutions. We fundamentally believe the emerging customer wants something different, something unexpected and something that delivers a great experience on a variety of levels. Through Imagine That, we learn about the convention business, we explore emerging trends and we challenge conventional thinking about design. If this year’s Imagine That was any indication, the next few years are going to be full of impactful developments and exciting new design concepts!
In 2012, we noticed that fewer clients are simply asking for “more space” and instead, designers are being asked to create more unique spaces that provide a better, more memorable customer experience for visitors. The question is, what can architects and industry professionals do to make that experience even more meaningful?

They can start by understanding and accommodating the following trends in new and renovated facilities. We believe these trends will shape the convention center of the future:

The Ability to Transform
By supplementing contiguous exhibition halls with unique breakout meeting spaces, functional outdoor areas, high quality ballrooms and other multi-purpose spaces, convention centers of the future will allow for transformation. By designing facilities that can accommodate a wider variety of events, convention centers can broaden their marketability substantially.

As the experience of the individual customer has become more important, including comfort, convenience and connection, designers and operators are finding ways to create more hospitable environments. In the future, we will see more interesting spaces with nicer finishes and materials, more attention to amenities, including comfortable seating areas to plug in and decompress, unique and varied meeting areas that accommodate two or 2,000 people, high-quality food options and a greater emphasis on the exciting and unexpected. Delivering great customer experiences encourages meeting planners, delegates and visitors to return to the city again and again.

Convention Destination Design
In the past, convention center design was limited to the confines of the building. Because of the ever-growing sophistication of customers, convention centers’ boundaries have expanded to encompass the district surrounding it. These destinations include retail, entertainment, dining and cultural venues within a walkable distance, creating a more comprehensive and varied experience that will help turn conference attendees into city visitors.

Focus on wellness is a trend that will impact the design of buildings over the coming years. As individuals continue to become more aware and dedicated to personal wellness, convention centers will begin to incorporate design elements with this in mind. This may include walking spaces or trails, natural light, views to connect attendees to the city, healthy dining options and fitness services on site.

Advanced technology
Incorporating state of the art technology and also planning for future technological developments is a must. From providing constant internet access to facilitating conversations via social media during conferences and events to broadcasting or streaming the convention as it occurs, technology’s influence will become even more pervasive. For proof of these trends, we have to look no further than cities a stone’s throw away – among them, Los Angeles and San Jose. In Los Angeles, designers are creating a space in the heart of downtown’s LA Live District that is hyperfunctional, efficient and captures the qualities that we know and love about Los Angeles. The expansion of San Jose’s McEnery’s Convention Center is a shining example of reconfiguring a facility to fit within the framework of a city’s downtown. Directly connected to a reimagined public plaza, the facility will open in September as one of the most interconnected convention centers in the country.

Facilities like these are about form and function. They fit within the confines of downtown, functioning like the living room of the city by welcoming guests into the community. They function as a permanent part of the city’s identity and are forever representative of who they are. We create these spaces by understanding the city’s story, where the city is headed and finding compelling ways to tell it through architecture. This may entail the use of local materials (in San Jose’s case, by using distinctive reclaimed redwood), graphics and architectural elements that are representative of the city while ensuring the convention center is equipped for the coming decades with updated technology and amenities.

At the root of convention center design is the desire to capture the unique sense of place and create a building that represents the history, the culture and the community’s projected vision for the future. Convention centers and the events inside them are changing and in turn, design will too. Our role as professionals in the convention center industry is to create the future rather than react to the forces. By incorporating trends like hospitality, wellness, technology and destination design into the convention centers we create, we can shape where the future of the industry is headed. The reality is that convention centers are no longer only about what’s going on inside. They are about drawing people together to create shared experiences in a new city that extend far beyond the content of a conference.

1 Comment

  1. nice one

    vivek singh
    March 7, 2014

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